9 Million Bottles of Wine on the Wall
If you find yourself in northern Spain, do try to get to Marqués de Riscal, it's the Disneyland of wineries. Over 70,000 people visited last year, touring with 12 fulltime guides. Elena, our guide took 18 of us through the barrel room, the tanks, and a very nice tasting. She was great.
We love the Hotel Viura in Villabuena de Alava. It's a lovely place, very comfortable, quiet, wonderfully located for touring the Rioja region, and unrivaled customer service. Today after a very nice lunch in the hotel restaurant, we went to the room to check email before heading out for our afternoon winery visits. The phone rang and the front desk asked if we had a red car - yes, we are driving a red car. "Unfortunately," they told us, "it has a bad tire." We were instructed to bring the keys to the front desk and they would change it for us. They not only changed the tire, they retrieved the Europcar contract from the glove box, contacted Europcar in Logrono (30km away) and the manager took our car with the temporary spare to Logrono to swap for a new car. He didn't like the fact that the temporary tire has only an 80 kilometer an hour capacity. Now that's service!
Once we got our new car, a white VW that's almost twice the size of our old red Hyundai, we took off for Logroño, a town about thirty minutes away. We were on the hunt for 'the Trail of the Elephants" orLa Senda de los Elefantes. The area isn't marked on maps and when we stepped into a hotel to ask directions, the woman behind the counter didn't know what we meant, but a guy in the lobby did. He was a pilgrim just off the Camino De Santiago where he'd hiked 100 miles in eight days. His wife will continue until she reaches Compostela in about a month from now.
With the pilgrim's help we found the trail-two streets, Calle del Laurel and Calle San Juan have about 50 bars selling tapas and pinxtos to masses of people. It's more a progressive supper than restaurant rivalry. Each place specializes in one or two small plates and that's what people eat there before moving on. It was great fun. We stopped in at one place and ordered from pictures. Well, what Judy thought was chicken sautéed with lemon was sweetbreads. Karla got what she thought would be four or five pieces of chorizo in tomato sauce and it was twenty chunks of sausage. The wine was pretty good. The whole thing was like a G rated Bourbon Street with whole families out eating, talking and walking. It's a very social culture, and fun to be part of.